Volleyball drops first match in Charleston

Jimmy Miller

Box Score

Despite having a tough evening, a bright spot in the Flashes lineup against Mercer University Friday were four starting freshmen, especially setter Brittney Jacscht and outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger.

“How they handled themselves on the court was strong, it was impressive,” head coach Don Gromala said. “They definitely have things to work on. We saw some good things that we can build upon.”

Kent State lost its season opener in four sets at the College of Charleston Invitational, while Mercer notched its first win over the Flashes in the program’s history.

“We were really happy to be that close” Gromala said.

Kent State opened the first set strong, started by a kill from senior middle blocker Liz Reikow. Mercer made the set interesting, keeping the set close and even taking their first lead when they made the score 13-12.

Behind Jacscht’s great passing game and a strong finish to the set from Bittinger, the Flashes held off the Bears, 25-22.

Beyond that, Mercer overwhelmed the Flashes during the next three sets.

Despite a dominant performance at the net by junior middle blocker Bridget Wilhelm and company, Mercer’s outside hitter Molly Locke and the offense were able to jump on the Flashes early and often.

In the next two sets, Locke and teammate Ellie James paved the way for the Bears. While the Flashes fought hard, the Bears ran away with the next two sets by a collective seven points.

“We were really happy to be that close” Gromala said, “We were in control, but we kind of let it slip a little bit.”

Gromala added that the Flashes were impressed with Mercer’s defensive performance, but the difference in the match was fixing mistakes sooner.

“Our energy, our communication level was nice and steady throughout the whole match even though we were down a lot,” Gromala said. “It came down to just a couple points, and we talked about that discipline of making adjustments sooner. That was the difference in the match.”

Things began looking up for Kent State again in the fourth set. The Flashes led the Bears 13-8 at one point, and a fifth and decisive set seemed inevitable. Six of Kent State’s 17 kills in the set came early on from senior outside hitter Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola, but the Bears regained momentum of the match upon a streak of service points from James.

Ultimately, the set would come down to an attack error by Aderemi-Ibitola, as the Flashes fell 26-24.

Kent State (0-1) will remain in Charleston for Saturday’s continuation of the invitational, squaring off against Davidson College and the College of Charleston.

“We’ve got to make some adjustments a little bit quicker and come out swinging, and be a little stronger on the defensive end,” Gromala said. “We’re obviously not happy, but we saw some good things to build upon.”

Game Notes

  • Mercer not only picked up its first win all-time against Kent State Friday, but also its first victory in a set. Prior to its win over the Flashes, Kent State historically shut the Bears down, winning two matches, both of which by 3-0 sweeps.
  • Friday’s win already ties Mercer’s season win total from 2013. The Bears finished 1-27 last season.
  • Bittinger led the kill and attack categories for both Kent State and Mercer, finishing with 19 and 74, respectively.
  • Perhaps lost in the shuffle of Friday’s performance at the net by Wilhelm, Reikow and Aderemi-Ibitola each had four blocks, while Jacscht tacked on three more. The Flashes collectively finished with 15 blocks to the Bears’ eight.

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].